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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Highest ever energy bursts detected from the usually sedate Crab nebula.

The Large Area Telescope on board the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope recently measured two gamma-ray flares coming from the Crab Nebula (M1, NGC 1952); which at 10^15 eV, scientists believe to be the highest energy ever associated with a discrete astronomical source.

The brevity of the flares implies that the gamma rays are emitted via synchrotron radiation from PeV electrons in a region smaller than 1.4 10^-2 pc.

The Crab Nebula has been used as a reference source to calibrate telescopes in several wavebands, in particular at high energies because of its bright and historically steady emission.

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